Due to advances in treatment and care, women with HIV in Canada are living longer than ever before. Even so, you may have mixed feelings about getting older because we live in a society that values youth.

Untreated HIV breaks down the immune system, so your doctor might suggest treatment sooner than later. Ask all the questions you need to feel confident about treatment. It’s important to take HIV medications properly, or they may not work well.

Perimenopause and HIV

Perimenopause is the time when your body starts to change in preparation for menopause, when menstruation stops. Signs of perimenopause can include the following:

  • shorter or longer times between periods
  • heavier or lighter bleeding
  • a change in the number of days you bleed (fewer or more)
  • sleep disturbances or insomnia
  • hot flashes
  • memory changes: fogginess, forgetfulness

Mood swings are also common during perimenopause. If severe anxiety or depression is changing how you lead your everyday life, it could be a sign of something bigger, so speak to your doctor.

Health concerns

HIV-positive or not, aging brings an increased likelihood of health issues like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, and cancers. Smoking, alcohol and drug use, exercise, and nutrition affect your health as you age, especially if you have HIV.

Your doctor may suggest tests to look at bone density, diabetes markers, cholesterol levels, kidney function, and blood pressure mammograms, testing for sexually transmitted infections, cervical and anal (if suggested) Pap tests will be ongoing. If you know your family disease history, share it with your doctor so you can be checked as necessary for cancers and other disease.

Sexual wellness

You bet you can still have sex! Your sex drive may change as you age due to perimenopause. There can be less vaginal lubrication, which can make sex more painful and make tiny tears in the vagina, leaving you more vulnerable to sexually transmitted infections. Use lube and lots of it to make things more comfortable and safe.

If you are in a relationship or hoping to meet someone, sharing your HIV status is something you have to consider. If you don’t tell a partner that you have HIV before you have sex, you could be criminally charged. See our disclosure guides for help.

For more extensive information, see our Pocket Guide on Aging for Women Living with HIV.